Ferry Chelan out of service after running aground while leaving Orcas Island

FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash. — The ferry Chelan ran aground Sunday night during a trip between islands in the San Juans.

Washington State Ferries said the incident happened at 9:35 p.m., shortly after the boat left Orcas Island for Friday Harbor.

Ferry officials called it a “soft grounding” and said the boat likely struck the shoreline, according to a preliminary investigation.

There were only four passengers on board. They were given life preservers as a precaution while crew members checked the boat for possible damage.

None was found and the boat returned to Orcas.

The Coast Guard later allowed the ferry to return to Friday Harbor to be inspected. Divers discovered a small hole — which is now sealed — along with some damage to the propeller due to the incident, according to WSF’s Ian Sterling. It is not known how long the ferry will be out of service.

The Chelan was primarily used for sailings between the San Juan Islands, which means the absence of the vessel will restrict inter-island services.

A replacement vessel is expected to take over the sailings later this week, possibly as early as Tuesday.

The Coast Guard will work with WSF to figure out what happened. All crew members were drug tested, as is standard protocol following any ferry accidents/incidents. Test results are still pending.

In April, the ferry Walla Walla lost power and ran aground in Rich Passage near Bainbridge Island.